I stand on my tiptoes and stay still, holding my breath. Sweat trickles on my back but I keep my spine rigid. The stage's spotlight blinds me as I hold my chin up high, but I refuse to look away. I keep my pose for another heartbeat, and the(more) next moment my head and arms sweep forward to the floor as I let out a whoosh of breath.
One, two. One, two. Just as I have practiced. I dance furiously, thinking of the harsh insults of my family, criticizing my passion for ballet. Thinking of my instructor's gentle but firm words as she cajoles me with each painstaking move.
I dance and make my limbs fluid, graceful. I dance and make my steps as if I float on clouds. I dance and feel my arms melting into the air. I dance and I feel alive.
When I stop, I give the empty audience before me a bow. I am now drenched in sweat, the way I like it. The spotlight makes my skin shine, and I smile.
It was then I hear clapping coming from the audience. It was a rash impatient clap, and I find myself staring at a dark figure who is standing up. He moves forward in a fluid movement, and the next moment he stands at the bottom of the stage.
I could not make out his face.
"You dance with such raw passion. Yet you are frustrated you cannot make it to the stars." His words startle me because it is true. "Come with me, child. I can make that happen. I can make your dreams come true."
He extends his arm, and I look at it. A dark glow rolls off his pale-white skin, but I cannot hesitate. This is the offer I wanted.(less)
Monday morning, driving rain. Her finger joints are sore, swollen, but she writes on the board anyway.
"Koans," she tells the class, underlining the word "are used in Zen Buddhism to shock the mind out of everyday awareness and help the student on the way to enlightenment."
Painstakingly she writes, the pen squeaking on the board: What is the sound of one hand clapping?
There's always one wise guy. Today it's Greg Bushgrove from the third row. "Miss Canon, I know!"
He folds his hand in two and flaps his fingers against his palm.
"That's not clapping, Greg."
"Clapping is something you do with two hands. So what is the sound of one hand clapping? It's impossible to solve, so it concentrates the mind of nothingness."
The class blink for a second and then go back to chattering and giggling. Jesus, it was a mistake to introduce philosophy on a Monday morning. Better to switch to something with colouring. She sets the class to work on posters displaying the key features of Zen Buddhism.
She walks around on aching knees to survey their work: Greg is copying Zach's work, Violet is texting under the table and Amy Harlow has gone through six sheets of paper, each one torn into tiny little pieces.
The girl will begin each piece, eyes narrowed in concentration, only to make a mistake and scrub so hard with a rubber that the paper tears. She'll rip it appart then, shred it into confetti.
Elizabeth Canon's own headache lurches behind her temple. The pain is spiky, insistent; she wants out of her body, but she turns her attention to the question, to the impossible.
She breathes in and out. She imagines the class is breathing one breath and she pushes that oxygen right behind her heart.(less)
I know they're here somewhere, that it's only a matter of time before they find me. I gave it all I could, knowing I'd eventually have to accept the fact that I couldn’t escape. Yet by some instinct I refuse to give(more) up so easily. That’s actually how I ended up here, for that matter.
I’m shivering. This may be me dying, but then again I'm soaked. They say some people feel cold right before the last moment, but is this mine or am I just wishing it so? Gasp--blood in my throat once again. It's a wonder I still have any left. Thankfully they can’t hear me as I cough my guts out.
Nor I them, for that matter. The sound of the window shutters clapping against the walls is even louder than the howling of the wind. For all I know, they could be just around that corner over there. Yeah, I almost wish they'd show up and finish this business already.
As I prop myself up against the wall, a jolt of pain flares through my left side. This will leave the kind of scar that turns into stories for grandkids--or rather would, as I won't have kids to begin with. There won't be enough time for this to become a scar anyway.
I can't think clearly, not that it matters much now. The deed is done. They can hunt me all they like, there's nothing they can undo or hide anymore. If that's so, why do I insist on living? I thought I'd already come to terms with that. I've already played my part, my real part--I'm no longer important.
My memories are starting to blend together. What have I done? Was I really a savior?(less)
I walk down the red carpet, the bright flash of cameras surround me, my nervousness drowned out by the sound of thunderous applause. Legs feel like rubber, I can hardly even stand. Heart racing a million miles per hour, the time has finally come.
It's hard not to feel like(more) an outsider as I push myself past dozens of celebrities. Finally reaching the magnificent, decorated large doors that lead into The Dolby Theater. Greeted by waiters and waitresses as soon as I enter, offering champagne and hors d'oeuvres, making me feel more welcome. I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and let out all the stale air to calm myself. Reminding myself that this is what I've always worked towards.
At last I take that first step, reaching the stairs, I grab hold of the railing to steady myself, and begin my ascent. one step, two steps, three... Seems to take a lifetime to reach the top. An usher at the top greets me and grabs hold of my arm gently, and proceeds show me to my seat.
We arrive not to soon yet not to late. I take my seat and wait. Everyone is here now, the auditorium is silent, the lights go dark, and the awards ceremony begins. It's a magical night, full of happiness and good cheer. I've always been a late bloomer, but here I finally am. 80 years old, regretting nothing. The awards go out one by one, as my time finally draws near.
The presenter walks out onto the stage as time itself seems to slow down. Those words I've wanted to hear my entire life come free, "And the award for Best Original Screenplay goes to..."
I'll never forget how much they all clapped. I can die a happy man.
you're sweating and trembling all over
your fingers are retracing their steps on the violin
returning to the same positions that were rehearsed a million times before
and now the final note is played
broken bow hairs fly
(more) The weight in your chest is gone;
the lights shining brighter than ever
a wide grin forms over your face
your heart is pounding
and the crowd jumps to their feet in applause--
this was worth it.
you did it~(less)